Today in London radical history: Cleaners’ strike, Eurostar & St Pancras stations, 2014.

Contract Cleaners on Eurostar and at London’s St Pancras station went on strike for two days on 15th August 2014 – one of a series of strikes that month over jobs and conditions.

The cleaners at St Pancras station in London downed tools as part of their action against facilities company Interserve, which imposed massive 30 per cent cuts to the workforce after it won the St Pancras-Eurostar cleaning contract from Network Rail.

The dispute had been rumbling for several months, with an initial 24 hour strike on August 1st.

Like many contract cleaners, the Eurostar contract is subject to regular tender with cut-throat cleaning contractors competing to win the work.  Workers get transferred from one contractor to another like pieces of meat, but the business model of the companies is all the same – hacking back on pay and conditions to maximise profit while offering the workforce as little as possible.

Interserve won the St Pancras/Eurostar contract from Network Rail in exactly this fashion – through a massive cut in the price for the work.  In order to protect the company profits and hand-outs to shareholders Interserve imposed 30% job cuts on the cleaning workers: leading to massive pressure on remaining staff.

The cleaners complained of a workplace culture based on continual aggression and bullying from their employers: “They call it efficiency – we call it harassment.”

A workforce already suffering from low pay, no sick pay, receiving only the statutory minimum in benefits, were not prepared to be intimidated anymore.

Through their union the RMT, the Eurostar cleaners were demanding an agreement on staffing levels at St Pancras, a fair and reasonable workload and for the workforce to be treated with dignity and respect.

Much more on cleaners’ struggles in tomorrow’s blog entry…

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An entry in the 2016 London Rebel History Calendar – check it out online

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